Lizzie (1957)

LIZZIE (1957)
Article 2341 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2007
Posting Date: 1-9-2008
Directed by Hugo Haas
Featuring Eleanor Parker, Richard Boone, Joan Blondell

A troubled young woman is receiving threatening notes from a woman named Lizzie. What she doesn’t know is that Lizzie is actually one of three personalities that she has. She sees a psychiatrist for help.

Having seen SYBIL just a short while ago, I was bound to find this exploration into multiple personalities (based on a Shirley Jackson novel) rather simplistic. It’s also dismissed as campy by some viewers, and I can see certain reasons why; I found both Joan Blondell (as Elizabeth’s/Beth’s/Lizzie’s drunken aunt) and Eleanor Parker (in her Lizzie incarnation) to be rather over the top. Nevertheless, I quite like the movie; it makes a real attempt to be realistic and insightful, it avoids some of the pitfalls that plague other movies about psychiatry, and we grow to care about many of the characters. Richard Boone is excellent (and definitely non-campy) as the psychiatrist. The use of hypnotism here is fairly realistic, and I give the movie credit for never mistakenly using the word “schizophrenia” to describe Elizabeth’s condition and for also eschewing a romantic relationship between Elizabeth and the psychiatrist. It’s only marginally fantastic, with Elizabeth’s madness and the presence of hypnotism being common horror elements, though they are not used for horror here at all. This movie was actually released previous to the similarly-themed THE THREE FACES OF EVE, though in the same year.

 

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The Lost World of Sinbad (1963)

THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD (1963)
aka Dai tozoku
Article 2336 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-18-2007
Posting Date: 1-4-2008
Directed by Senkichi Taniguchi
Featuring Toshiro Mifune, Tadao Nakamaru, Mie Hama

Sinbad does battle with an evil premier who is planning to poison the king and marry the princess himself. Sinbad enlists the help of a gang of bandits and a cursed magician to help him. He must face the palace guard, a pirate, and an evil witch as his foes.

All right, it isn’t really Sinbad; in reality, it’s a character named Luzon which got changed to the more familiar Sinbad for American audiences. And he doesn’t visit any “lost world”, either; don’t strain your eyes looking for dinosaurs and prehistoric monsters. Still, even if it isn’t technically a Sinbad movie, the plot is certainly familiar enough to those familiar with Arabian Nights cinema, what with an evil premier conniving to get the princess for his own. The biggest plus is the presence of Toshiro Mifune in the title role; he’s such a charismatic actor that he still manages to entertain tremendously in one of his lesser roles. The witch (played by a man) is incredibly ugly and desperately needs a good orthodontist; she’s the closest thing to a monster here. The special effects are variable; some are good, and some are not so good. The fight scenes are very exciting, though, and the movie delivers a satisfying amount of spectacle. If you can get past the weak dubbing, you might find this one quite enjoyable.

 

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973)
Article 2335 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-17-2007
Posting Date: 1-3-2008
Directed by John Hough
Featuring Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill

A physicist, his wife, a mental medium and a physical medium are hired to enter a haunted house and find proof of life after death. They find themselves at the mercy of a truly frightening menace.

I’d heard about this movie for years, and I have vivid memories of seeing the ads for it on television in the early seventies. I’m quite happy to finally be watching it, and I’m also happy to discover that it is not a disappointment. In fact, I’m adding it to my list of favorite haunted house movies, along with THE HAUNTING , HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and THE UNINVITED . It starts out conventionally enough, with four people setting out to spend a week in the haunted house, with Roddy McDowall in what amounts to the Watson Pritchard role; he’s the sole survivor of another party that stayed in the house, and much of his early dialogue centers around how they’re all doomed. However, as the movie progresses, the exact nature of the haunting becomes more complex, as do the characters themselves, and the movie is full of fascinating and intriguing revelations. The performances are all fine, with McDowall giving one of his very best ones here. The use of sound is simply outstanding; silent is used to good effect, and the music and sound effects that do show up actually seem to lurk around the edges of the movie rather than coming out front and center, giving a truly eerie air to the proceedings. Not everyone will survive, but the movie is set up in such a way that you simply don’t know who will live and who will die. And, to top it all off, the movie has a great uncredited cameo appearance, and for those who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t give away who it is; I didn’t know, and I was surprised and delighted when the moment came. This is one I definitely recommend.

 

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974)
aka Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti, Don’t Open the Window, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
Article 2278 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-18-2007
Posting Date: 11-7-2007
Directed by Jorge Grau
Featuring Cristina Galbo, Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy

A new machine that uses sonic waves to destroy insect life has an unfortunate side effect; it brings the dead back to life and makes them flesh-eating zombies.

Yes, it’s another flesh-eating zombie movie modeled after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD . But it’s a good one; it does a nice job of ratcheting up the suspense, it doesn’t follow its model slavishly, and it has some good ideas of its own. Still, I do wish it had pursued some of its ideas further; I liked the touch that babies born during the time the machine was being used are also aggressive killers, but it never does anything with the idea once it’s introduced, and it ignores the effect it might have on non-human and non-insect life. It’s a little too insistent on its ecological themes at times, and the “it’s only a movie” tagline had already been used several times before, but these are fairly minor quibbles. It’s definitely one of the better zombie movies from the era out there, and the bloody mayhem is definitely not for the squeamish.

 

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974)
aka THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA
Article 2197 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-22-2007
Posting Date: 8-18-2007
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Featuring Peter Cushing, David Chiang, Julie Ege

Dracula takes the form of a Chinese warlord in order to resurrect the seven golden vampires, and then proceeds to terrorize a small Chinese village. Dr. Van Helsing comes to China and combines forces with a family of martial arts experts to do battle with the vampires.

This was the last of Hammer’s vampire movies, and the sheer novelty value of the concept helps put it over. Hammer combined with Shaw Brothers to produce this martial arts vampire movie, and the kung fu action combined with vampire thrills was enough to hold my interest. Some of it is quite eerie indeed; I love the shots of the undead minions rising out of the ground during the monster attacks, and the attack sequences are pretty exciting. My main disappointments here were minor ones; the bats are utterly unconvincing, and the final battle with Dracula is brief and anticlimactic. Nonetheless, there’s a decent amount of fun in this one, and I quite enjoyed it.

 

Lost Planet Airmen (1951)

LOST PLANET AIRMEN (1951)
Feature Version of KING OF THE ROCKET MEN
Article 2156 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-9-2007
Posting Date: 7-8-2007
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Tristram Coffin, Mae Clarke, Don Haggerty

Rocket man Jeff King tries to defeat a saboteur known as Dr. Vulcan.

By their very nature, feature versions of serials will always be problematic, but I think a real distinction can be made between those made for television distribution in the mid sixties and those made in other eras. The ones from the sixties tended to try to fit all the action of the serial into one feature, and usually ended up with energetic but dull confusion. The best thing about this one is that it makes no attempt to include all the action; it picks and chooses which parts of the story to include, and the result is a somewhat better example of the form. This is, of course, culled from the first of the Rocket Man serials (“Rocket Man” is generally remembered as “Commando Cody”, though he only appeared with that moniker in one of the serials). I’ve never seen that serial, but based on this feature version, I suspect it may be the best of the Rocket Man serials, though it still looks like it was made in Republic’s waning years. Hero Tristram Coffin certainly has a familiar face, and I’ve seen him in several other serials, though usually as a villain.

 

Latitude Zero (1969)

LATITUDE ZERO (1969)
aka IDO ZERO DAISAKUSEN
Article 2126 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-10-2007
Posting Date: 6-8-2007
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero, Akira Takarada

Three people stranded on the ocean floor in a bathysphere are rescued by residents of an underground kingdom called Latitude Zero. They are fighting the evil mad scientist, Dr. Malic.

For some reason, this Toho science fiction movie has eluded me for years; now, after having seen it, I’m afraid I have to consider myself somewhat fortunate in this regard. Dubbing is not a real problem with this one, what with most of the major cast members (Cotten, Romero and Jaeckel) speaking their lines in English to begin with, but I think the story is rather slow-moving and weak, Joseph Cotten seems lost and a little bored (though Cesar Romero is trying to put his best foot forward) and the music is listless and puny (from the usually reliable Akira Ifukube). There’s a bit of campy fun, though, what with Romero insisting on surgically creating a monster (a lion with the wings of a condor and the brain of a woman) right in front of his unwilling captives who are forced to watch by evil bat-men, but these sequences come fairly late in the film. The monster costumes look like monster costumes (especially the rats and the lions). It almost looks like they were hoping to build a TV series off of it. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of Toho’s weakest efforts in the realm of Science Fiction.